My Arizona Road Trip

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I took a day off of work on Friday to drive to Prescott, Arizona for a women’s conference in the pines. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big driver. My parents and I used to drive on vacations every summer (mostly because my mum was terrified to fly), but also my parents thought it was important that I got to see so much of the country, and I actually started to look forward to it every year. So I thought nothing of driving 6 hours to get to another state to see some friends and be high up in the Pines to be without TV or any other media for a couple of days.

As usual, it started with the 134 to the 210, with a quick detour to the 57 and on to the 10. This would be my highway for the next 233 miles. Once I got past Palm Springs, it was all new to me. I had never taken the 10 E any farther than that. Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of traffic and I was able to put the cruise control on and enjoy the scenery without having to worry about people around me too much. It was hot, so I had to turn the A/C up a notch – I don’t like air blowing directly on my face – my next car is going to have those nifty cooling/heating seats, I don’t care what the cost is!!

There were a lot of places I started to pass that I’d heard of, most notably the Salton Sea. I remember the movie with Val Kilmer and thought of it as this exotic place, like the Dead Sea, that had some miraculous power to heal or something. That was until I read in the paper that the Salton Sea is so toxic and full of sulfur, millions of fish regularly turn up dead on the shores when the wind blows across it. And also that it has a huge Meth problem. Not that exotic.

Once past Indio and Coachella, I settled in for the drive. It’s a two-lane highway and I found myself playing a pass-and-move game with another car – he would pass me and move in the the slow lane ahead of me, I would catch up and do the same – this went on for about 40 minutes. The landscape started to shift; the earth turned a coral color and it was really barren and flat. For some reason it looked like huge planks of salmon with dill trees sparsely stuck in them. The wind made impressions like the sections on a filet. Weird image I know but it really did.

I had never been to Arizona before so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be desert and sand, with not a lot of vegetation. When I crossed the state line, the town of Blythe was verdant and lush – there was a suspension bridge across a huge wash that was brimming with water. The vegetation was darker than California’s, especially on the mountainside.

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I switched over to the 60 and it really got rural. RV parks popped up everywhere, no trees for shade, just vast acres of land with these white and metal trailers dotting the landscape. It was hot. There was lots of scrap metal and other items strewn about in front of houses and businesses – like it was too hot to get it to where they really wanted to bring it. I kept going, even though I needed to stop and stretch and get some gas. A sign said, “You are now leaving Hope behind.” I “hoped” it was just the name of the town and not a fact. I kept going.

The 71 was next; more flat landscape, although now there were those typical-shaped mountains in the distance. Not as pointy, more flat and red. The cactus growing there all seemed to be giving me the finger, which seemed rude to me, how did they ever expect visitors with such a welcome?

I finally stopped for gas in Aguila. It had just rained, poured in fact, and the air was heavy and thick with wetness. People were just starting to come back out on the streets. Gas was $2.99 a gallon, so much cheaper than California! There was a feeling I got from everyone around, like they were trapped in this town, like cats poised to jump into any vehicle and see where it took them. I paid for my gas and hurried back to the highway. It got hotter.

The road was so flat the heat caused mirages. I could see maybe 200 ft ahead of me, that was it. The heat sat there on the road, fat-bellied and corpulent, shimmering the air above the road so violently that I couldn’t tell which way the road turned till I was almost there. It was a bit like “the Twilight Zone.” I wished I had someone I was driving with to talk to, to break the tension and laugh a little. But it was just me and the CD collection.

I pushed the cruise control to eighty and turned my “Gomez” CD on. I needed to hear some happy music to counteract the chilliness I felt on driving alone. I kept on going down the 71 till I got to the 89 and turned North towards the mountains. The clouds came back and covered the sun enough so that it wasn’t as toasty in the car. A few fat drops of rain spattered on to my windscreen and I turned the wipers on and off quickly. For some reason I started to smile, at last relaxing a little and really being humbled by the beauty of the landscape and having some time off to see it. I turned the air conditioner off and opened up the sunroof – instantly my car was filled with moist, warm air and the smell of pinon. I took my hair clip out and let my locks swirl about in the wind. It must have looked a sight as the pressure from the sunroof being open made all of my hair stand on end and get sucked out the roof! It felt amazing, like a massage from tiny fingers.

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I got to the base of the mountain on the way to Prescott and prepared for the drive up to my destination. I was a little worried about my ears as my vertigo was not completely gone, but I took it easy on the accelerator and started up. It was not too winding at the beginning, and I was really glad it was paved. Each direction was on a different part of the mountain, so no chance of running into another car that was careening down the hill and coming round the corner at you.

It was getting a little claustrophobic now, the road wound round and snaked back and forth, the pines were enormous and created a canopy above, and the sides of the mountain were solid rock and really close to the edge of the road. Thank goodness there were look-outs every few miles – I made use of them to pull over, get my dizziness and nausea under control and then get back driving. Motion sickness only ever happens when I’m a passenger, so this is all new to me, and I’ll tell ya, I don’t like it one bit. Haven’t tried any other method of transportation but I’m hoping I don’t get the symptoms then too. Vertigo has changed a lot in my life.

Prescott was waiting at the top, and I felt relieved that I was almost there. My back was aching from all the sitting and my legs were starting to twitch and jump from lack of exercise. The town was nestled in tall trees and had all the entertainment offerings of a much larger city. They even had two Wal-Marts – a fact I found disturbing in that it would be nicer to see more community-oriented mom-and-pop outfits than chains – especially chains that were so underhandedly dangerous to America as a whole. But I digress and that’s a subject for another blog.

Copper Canyon Road carried me up to the camp where we’d be till Sunday. The roads were unpaved and pocked with canyons where the wash had eroded away the earth, and I had to really slow down to make sure my little Mazda didn’t bottom out going across them.

It was so quiet and so beautiful when I got to the upper lodge, I just stopped and sat on the ground. The clouds were roiling across the sky, in every shade of grey imaginable, looking like big handfuls of minty cotton candy; there were birds screeching in the trees and darting through the sky, and small animals ran from corner to corner, checking the new arrival out and perhaps hoping for some food.

My two days in Arizona were so relaxing, so fulfilling, and truthfully I did nothing! I can’t remember the last time I laid in big Adirondack rocking chair and let my imagination tell me what the clouds were. I became so aware of the absence of noise, and acutely aware of sound. There truly is a difference. Even the screech of a mountain cat in the dawn wasn’t frightening, it was more exciting and almost brought tears to my eyes.

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I left on Sunday with the thunder clapping and the huge raindrops hitting my car and a heart that was so much lighter than when I got there. I decided to try the shortcut down to the 89 that I had noticed on MapQuest and headed out Copper Canyon Road the opposite direction than when I arrived.

Bad decision. The rain was causing fast washes across the roads, and I was terrified my car was going to get stuck. I put the gear into low and tried not to brake too much, as when I did, the road skittered out from underneath me and made the car fishtail as the tires clung on the dirt roads.

I kept going, and going, and going down the mountain. There weren’t any road names anywhere and no where else to go, so I just kept on going. I prayed that the road didn’t dead end, as I knew there was no way I was going to be able to get back up the mountain with the road as slick as it was. I came upon a truck ahead of me, and flashed my lights to him to let him know I wanted him to pull over. My stomach stopped flipping and I relaxed a little as I pulled up to his driver’s side window. His license plate said Texas, and he was as reserved of strangers as I know a lot of Texans are.

I asked him where the 87 was, confusing the highway numbers. He said, “you mean the 89?” I said, yes, the one that hooks up with the 60 – totally forgetting the connector 71. He looked confused and said, “Where are you trying to get, what’s the name?” Los Angeles, I said, and I might as well have said Mars from the reaction he gave me. “You missed that I think,” he said. No kidding, I thought. “How the hell’d ya end up here?” Too long a story. He told me to keep going down this road and it would t-stop at the 89. He took off ahead of me and I kept him in sight, barreling down after him, afraid to lose the humanity I’d found in all this wilderness.

I came upon a religious family – not sure what they were, but they were dressed plainly, maybe Hutterites or Menonites, but they smiled and waved as I passed through their small town. “Skull Valley” was painted on the side of a building, and I panicked ridiculously and thought, Oh geez, it’s “Deliverance” and I’m the one with the pretty mouth. Los Angeles has never felt like “home” to me, but I was so desperate to blink my eyes and be there right then.

Finally, the highway came into sight. I actually started to cry as I took off towards the way I knew would lead me to home. I’m better with markers than directions, and being so happy on the way up here, I didn’t really take into account ones that would help me on the way back. It wasn’t till I saw the on-ramp to the 10 E that I really felt calm again, knowing I was only a few hours from a hot shower and soft bed.

Moral of the story: although there is something to be said about traveling alone and the peace and divinity you can experience by yourself, road trips are a little more fun when you have someone to share your insanity and panic with. And in cannibalistic Deliverance situations, there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll pick your passenger and send you on your way!

I Won’t Be Muzzled.

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I won’t be muzzled.  I won’t be leashed and held to heel.  Having spent the better part of my 20s and 30s thinking that I wasn’t a “nice” girl, having to swallow my anger so much that I blew up like a blimp, so that every time I experience the feeling of anger, I cannot even hold on to it, instead I dissolve into tears.  I no longer want to slowly kill myself with food and unfelt emotion.  I’m tired of watching life pass me, thinking how glorious and shiny everyone else’s life is as they achieve goals, try new things that frighten them, put themselves out on the line, while I sit in the corner and hope you don’t notice me.

It’s simple, but it’s a difficult concept to grasp.  I know.  If you don’t like me (and that’s OK), feel free to change the channel.  If you don’t like the words I write, don’t read them.  Believe me, they’re not about you, or trying to hurt you.  They are simply me, trying to understand, me.

I no longer have to be a people-pleaser and throw myself into despair knowing that you don’t like me.  I can’t grovel on the ground or hide under a quilt while you assert your dominance and superiority over me. I’m tired of putting my energy into trying to make you like me, rather than spend that energy on those who really do.  Those who, time after time, have been there for me.  Have opened their hearts, their homes, their lives, to me and mine; have never told me that I’m disgusting and that I should be ashamed of myself.

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This immense globe that is my home, I want to see as much of it as I can, with the person that means the most to me, my husband.  If that means that I’m flying away from the nest, be happy for me.  Wish me success and happiness and love as I traverse it, and don’t be sad or resentful that I’m away from you. My journey may not necessarily be your journey, or more likely, the journey that you wanted for me.  But it is distinctly and utterly mine.  I do not regret a millisecond of it.  All of it has made me who I am today, and you know what? It’s pretty amazing.  And, maybe, the choices I made have made it difficult to stay in touch, to know me, but instead of looking at that as a defect, why not look at it as an asset? An old Chinese proverb says that sorrow shared is sorrow halved; happiness shared is happiness doubled.

So, I’m different than you.  I believe different things.  I do different things.  They aren’t Canadian differences or Scottish differences, or American differences… they’re just differences.  Does that make me less of a human in your eyes?  Or less worthy of your love and your respect (if there ever was any there to begin with)?  Because I have not lived my life how you lived your life, or believed what you believed, there is no room for me in your consciousness?  I can’t live on crumbs any longer.  I am not satisfied to get what you give me and call it manna from heaven. I can’t be.  The world is beautiful, and huge, and ugly, and scary, and beautiful again, and I want to taste it all before I die.  And I will die, just as everything on this planet dies. What can I do in between now and then?  I can love. I can live. I can accept myself exactly how I am and where I am right now.  And then, if I want to change it, I can.  But I cannot change without first seeing myself as I really am.

Why must you seek to rein me in, like I am some thunderous wild Appaloosa who just needs a tighter bit to champ at in her mouth and the spurs dug in a little deeper to her sides?

Do you think I do what I do for spite?  To hurt you?  Do you really think it’s about you?

That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

A junior high teacher wrote as a comment on a paper I had turned in, “Why settle for the Moon, when you can reach the stars?” I’ll tell you why: because the Moon is closer, and all the people I know are there, and it’s safe, and known, and most of all… it’s not as lonely as being in the stars is.

But there comes a time when you know you must leave your Moon home and head off to your rightful place among those points of light.  The journey’s beginning is easier that second time, because the pull of the Moon is nowhere near as strong as the pull of the Earth.

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Really? A 10-Page Form Is All You Got, USCIS?

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I just finished inputting ten pages of information into my N-400 Application for Naturalization request/form. Some of the questions elicited, “well yeah of course” while others got a snort and a teeny, smidgeny burp of indignation.

Part I: Your Name
What do we call you? And what does everyone else call you? And then is that different from what you were called at birth? And is that what you want to be called? Seems to me this is a vast improvement from what happened at Ellis Island – Name? Wladimir Brunckywisckeicz. OK, welcome to America, Walter Brown. But what is this large box to the right? “Remarks” for use by USCIS only? What are you going to put there? “Seems sincere” or “name suits her” or something like that? I hate the word remark. And yes, OK, I understand you need ALL the names I went as, but I really don’t like to even write it anymore. It’s painful.

Part II: Information About Your Eligibility
Well, we’ve got three options here: 1) lawful permanent resident of the US for five years. 2) lawful permanent resident of the US for AT LEAST three years, AND I have been living with and married to the same US citizen for the last three years, AND my spouse has been a US citizen for the past three years. Or; 3) I am applying on the basis of qualifying military service.

…Those are my only options? Be a resident for five years, or be married to a citizen AND a resident for 3 years? And it has to be the same citizen I live with and married? OR… join one of the Armed Forces and hopefully make it out in one piece and not ruined with PTSD and guilt.

See, right there, there has got to be some give and take. This nation is huge, and there should be alternative methods about how to qualify.

Part III: Information About You
Yes, it’s all well and good, my name, birthdate, social security number – those are pretty commonplace. But now you’re asking about my birth country and nationality? What if they’re different? Is that good or bad? And my parents’ citizenship? My marital status? It’s good, actually, every marriage has its peaks and valleys and right now we’re at a high point. Oh, right, just “married” is good enough. Sorry. And no, I’m not requesting a waiver of my civics test based on anything. I would love to show I know enough about the country and constitution so that you would WANT me to vote or be on a jury!

Part IV: Address and Telephone
Wait a minute… see what you’ve done there? You snuck in an “e-mail address” line too… yes, I guess that’s an address…but are you going to stalk me? Check out my correspondence? Trust me, you’re going to be very bored. I LONG for some good SPAM.

And here’s where it gets INTERESTING and/or HUMOUROUS…

Part V: Information for Criminal Records Search
I start to sweat, even though I don’t have a criminal record. Parking tickets? Traffic offenses? Calling 911 to report suspicious activity or a neighbor’s loud music?
Gender, height, weight (is that criminal?), Race (and there is a separate question for Are You Hispanic or Latino?), hair and eye color (do I go with my Bride-of-Frankenstein-Paulie-Walnuts-striped salt n pepa or the usually coiffed dark chestnut brown?) (And are my eyes hazel? I consider them green, with an amber ring around the pupil, but there isn’t a checkbox for that.)

Part VI: Information About Your Residence and Employment
Where have I lived for the past 5 years? Good thing this wasn’t 20 years ago in Boston… seriously I changed addresses like underwear. It wouldn’t have looked very good. Right now, it’s only three places in five years and just thinking about THAT exhausts me.

And another good thing that the Walt Disney Company encompasses many different divisions – 8 different ones in ten years – I would have needed an extra sheet.

Part VII: Time Outside the United States (Including trips to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean)

Imma stop ya right there. Anyone filling out this form who DOESN’T THINK ANY ONE OF THESE COUNTRIES LISTED IS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES should not pass go or collect $200 or your certificate of naturalization. That is all.

So, yes, including the last, big, sad, wrenching trip… 42 days outside of the US, all to Canada. Weird, when you add it all up like that. I have got to get me a travel agent and start doing the trips I’ve dreamed of. Got to. No offense, Canada, but there’s a whole world out there. Literally.

Part VIII: Information About Your Marital History:
How many times have you been married? Were they a citizen? Were they married before you and was it to a citizen? Annulment, Divorce, Death? Hey now, marriage is hard enough, I don’t need to put the whole citizenship/which side of the bed do you sleep on with it. (And PS, these sets of questions were two out of the ten pages.)

Part IX: Information About Your Children:
Next.

Part X: Additional Questions (Sections A-H)
Section A: HAVE YOU EVER (now this is getting like a weird game of Truth or Dare) (most of them tax-related or claming royalty titles, etc.

Section B: Affiliations – do you belong to any parties, clubs, societies, Communists, Terrorists, Nazis, Tea Party (no, that wasn’t really listed, I just added Tea Party) No. I have no life.

Section C: Residence (YES!!!!)

Section D: Good Moral Character (Oh shit… I’m out).
Habitual drunkard? Prostitute (well now, wait, does that include acting?)? Arrests, Probation, Parole? Drug Smuggler, Bigamist, Gambler, Alimony Shirker? (Considering the number of people born here that do these, shouldn’t you be applauding me by now?)

Sections E, F, G: Deportation, Military Service, Selective Service Registration (Wait, there’s still a draft?)

Section H: Oath Requirements
And here, this is where I get choked up and teary. Because, yes, I do support the Constitution and form of Government of the United States. I understand the Oath of Allegiance and of course, would take it. I have concerns with, but would bear arms for the protection of the country and would perform non-combatant work in times of war. I will protect to my best this country from all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC (sorry, did I shout there?) Because I really do believe that united we are absolutely indivisible, and that there should be liberty and justice for all. This country has given me a lot. If that means I’ve got to register to vote and sign up and do jury duty…hells yeah, I’m there.

It’s just going to take a little while stumbling around in the dark, barking our shins on the coffee table, before we turn on the light switch we always knew was there.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

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As hard as we try not to change, we are doing so every minute, every second of our lives here on the planet.  Trying NOT to change is the worst feeling in the world.  Change is natural.  It might as well be a synonym to evolution (oh wait, it is).

This is a picture of my hometown.   Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Coming up Connors Road, past the Muttart Conservatory, toward Strathearn and Bonnie Doon.

It’s in my rear view through a mirror, because Edmonton is forever changed for me now.  This picture was taken in September 2012.  I was home visiting my parents, the third such trip that year, because I was worried sick about my Dad.  It’s the last time I saw him.

Edmonton is a great city.  It was an amazing place to grow up – safe, comfortable, expanding, a little hick, a little slick. Living there requires a certain inner strength – particularly to get through the winters.

That last trip there, I borrowed my Dad’s Chrysler and filled up the tank, and just drove.  I remembered all the places I used to drive with him – Jasper Ave. to pick up my Mum after work; 17th Street where he worked; 109th Street where Grama used to live; my sister from the CN tower, where she worked.  I’d go everywhere with him. He had a little bit of the Traveler in him, and thank God I inherited it.

Dad taught me to drive – again in a Chrysler, this time a burgundy LeBaron – after getting me set up with Driver Training the summer I turned 16, I would be anxious to go with him, and this time get behind the wheel.  Dad was an assertive driver – some would say otherwise, in not so nice terms, but I am forever grateful to him for helping me with learning the privilege of driving. And learning how to do it well.  In thirty years of driving I’ve had two infractions – one for pulling a u-turn trying to get out of traffic on the way to my Dr’s office when I miscarried and was bleeding so badly I had to be hospitalized; the other, driving my husband’s car, and being behind a jerk who was texting and talking on his phone, and when I briefly honked to get him to go (as the light had been green for a few seconds), he went, then stopped short again, and not knowing this car as well as my own, I slammed on the brakes but couldn’t stop, and barely tapped his bumper (even though he harangued me and was verbally abusive, and got a whole new bumper and paint job out of it).

Lots of people are intimidated in the car with me.  I do admit, I’ve had some anger issues, and swore a lot, and maneuvered my Mazda as if it were a Porsche, but I don’t think I was ever reckless. I’ve been in cars with drivers who are worse – not confident, unsure, so scared of getting into an accident that they’re actually a liability on the road – and I’d rather be a passenger with my Dad.  I don’t think I was ever frightened when he drove.

Anyway, I got in Dad’s car, and I eased onto the roads I had once known like the back of my hand.  Edmonton is a growing city, and the vast open fields and spaces, on the roads into it, from my childhood were virtually non-existent anymore.  Yes, it was from growth, but also a little from that weird realization that everything was bigger, farther away, took longer to get to, as a child.  I remember my Western Civ teacher telling us the one way to really realize how much time had passed and how we’d grown was to reach for the doorknobs in our childhood home.  That perspective of eye level triggering memories was the harbinger of seeing how old you were.

So, with the car as my eye and the rest of the city as my doorknobs, I set out to see how much I’d grown. And how much it had changed; but mostly, how much I had changed.

The trees were so much taller.  I’d been around when a lot of them were being planted, slim trunks roped to iron bars to help keep them upright – now towering above me and their canopies full and lush.

The Walterdale bridge, close to the river and the water plant, still hummed as your tires went across it, but it was much quicker than I remembered.

The High Level Bridge, by the Legislative grounds, sucked the car in to its narrow two-lane tunnel, and dumped me out right where I had my first kiss from the man I went to Boston for – the High Level Diner. Wistfulness and sentiment washed over me.  I turned east onto Whyte Ave., and had to pull over.  The tears were streaming down my cheeks.  On my left was Gordon Price music – a favorite hangout of mine while at Grant MacEwan in the Theatre Program – I would spend many a Saturday afternoon flipping through sheet music there.

It’s also the last place I saw my Grama.  We had spent the morning together, shopping, doing errands for her.  I told her I wanted to go to the music store and look around, and would she mind waiting?  She said, no, you go on, I’m close enough to home, I will just walk back.  I didn’t want her to, but she insisted.  So I hugged her tightly and gave her a little kiss, and went off to search the aisles.  A few minutes later, I saw her, putting her face up to the plate glass front window, her hand shielding her eyes so she could see in, and I waved to her.  She saw me, waved, and smiled that wonderful smile she had, and blew a kiss, and walked with her little boots and mink coat, home.

If I had known…

How many times do we have to say that to ourselves before we learn?  Before we say “I love you” so they know. Before we look one last glance at them so we’ll remember them.

So that’s it.  Edmonton’s changed.  I’ve changed. Life’s changed.  It’s forever colored with the memories of all these lasts.  Yes, there were a lot of firsts, too, which I do remember, but it’s the lasts that are breaking my heart, that have so much of me tied there.  When did it change to that?  From the place of all my firsts, now just a place of my lasts?  It’s painful. Maybe that will change too.

The Executive Car Wash – A Symptom of…Something Else

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Have I told you lately how glad I don’t work in the private sector of the business world?  Where expense accounts and car allowances and business lunches are the everyday?  Where strip clubs are put through as “entertainment” and buying a pack of cigarettes counts as a business meal? Where bosses think nothing of dropping $60 a day on Lattes and Cappucinos and Espressos from Starbucks for their team, but give you a card at Christmas with “you’re wonderful!” and nothing more (even when you know they’re part of the “bonus pool” and got a huge check – something that, as an assistant, you are not allowed to be part of, even though you’re part of “the team”).

It seems that the more money you make, the more perks you are given, the worse your behavior for most of those who get the big bucks/have the power.  That doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t great, generous, humble people working for Fortune 500 companies, but they are, from experience, few and far between.

I would hope, that if I ever got into such a powerful position, and was a beneficiary of a “bonus pool” and knew the most important member of my team was not part of it, that I would give them a percentage of what I got.  Even if it was negligible, it’s the point of the thing.  I’ve heard it said that that is how rich people stay rich – they don’t give if there isn’t a tax write-off, or some way to get some of it back.

This hoarding – of funds, of love, of information, of ANYTHING… just makes you poorer.  Maybe not financially, but where the real truth of life lies… in our relationships with each other. A generous person is a person confident of where they fit in the world, and is unafraid to let things go, knowing that whatever you put out into the universe, you will reap threefold.  It’s hard not to be afraid, and it’s hard not to just want to keep it all, in case of, for maybe, the rainy day, it might happen… all of those are valid, but there’s a difference between preparing for later and living in fear.

Here’s something I’ve learned – there’s enough.  Of whatever you need. That’s it.  I may not be talking cash, but I mean everything else.  Cash is just a tool to help you get things. We give it way more power than it has the right to have.

Maybe it’s all about control, and not behavior. Maybe letting go of that modicum of power (in your own eyes) is the line in the sand.  I don’t know.  All I know is that when you’re getting paid to do the Big Job, you should spread the wealth, and let your little elves and pixies take care of the small stuff. They’re usually pretty good at it, and it makes them feel good when you actually LET them do their jobs, instead of doing it for them.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

9:00 AM

<ring ring>

M:          Hi John.

J:            Mary, could you please call the car wash and ask how many executive washes I have left this month?

M:          Sure John.

<ring ring> (goes on for about 2 minutes)

FD:         Front Desk.

M:          Oh, hello, I was trying to reach the car wash?

FD:         Yes, they are already all out of the office doing their jobs washing.  Can I help?

M:          Yes, my boss John would like to know how many executive washes he has left this month.

FD:         <pause> Uhh… OK, I will see if I can find this out for you.

M:          Thank you.

9:25 AM

<ring ring>

M:          John’s Office.

CW:       Hi Mary, John has four car washes left this month.  He is entitled to one fill up and one wash per week, as I’ve told him before.

M:          Thanks so much, I appreciate it.

<ring ring>

J:            Hello?

M:          Hi John, you have four car washes left this month.

J:            Great.  Can you call them back and ask if they can wash my car today? I have a hard out at 4, so it would need to be back by then.

M:          Of course.

<ring ring>

FD:         Front Desk.

M:          Hello, I’m trying to reach the car wash again.

FD:         I’ll have them call you; it may take a while, they are out doing their jobs.

M:          I totally understand. Thank you!

9:40 AM

<ring ring>

M:          John’s Office.

CW:       Mary? Seriously, what is it he needs now? We’re very busy.

M:          I know, sorry.  He would like the car washed today, but he has a hard out at 4, can it be back by then?

CW:       Yes, not a problem.

M:          Thanks so much.

11:30 AM

<ring ring>

M:          Hi, John.

J:            Mary, can you check and make sure the car has been picked up to be washed?

M:          <pause>…Sure, John.

<ring ring>

CW:       Car wash.

M:          Hi, has John’s car been picked up to be washed?

CW:       <pause> Matter of fact, I was on my way to do it when I came back to answer this call.

M:          Sorry.  Thank you so much.

<ring ring>

J:            Hello?

M:          John, your car has been picked up to be washed.

J:            Great. Thanks.

1:15 PM

<ring ring>

M:          Hi, John.

J:            Mary, can you call the car wash and see if the car is ready?  I have a hard out at 4 and I’m worried it won’t be ready.

M:          John, I did tell them it had to be back specifically by 4.

J:            I know but I have to leave right at 4, so it needs to be back before then, I think.

ME:        <pause>…Sure, John. I will call them.

<ring ring>

CW:       CAR WASH!

M:          Hello, I’ve been asked to remind you John needs to leave AT 4, so he would like his car to be there prior to that, if possible.

CW:       Mary, we get it. He needs the car by 4.

M:          (sheepishly) I know you know… Just doing what John is asking.

CW:       <sighs heavily> Yes, we know.

<ring ring>

J:            Hello?

M:          Car wash will have your car back prior to 4.

J:            Great!

3:10 PM

<ring ring>

M:          Hi, John.

J:            Mary, can you make sure the car is back?

M:          John, they said they would have it back before 4, they are very good about it.

J:            I would really like to know that it’s back, for my own peace of mind.  I’d appreciate you not giving me attitude about it.

M:          <pause>…Of course.  I will call and check for…

J:            <click>

<ring ring>

CW:       Car wash.

M:          <clears throat> Hi, just checking to see if John’s car is ready?

CW:       <pause> Seriously?

M:          Yup.

CW:       Yes, Mary.  The car is back in its parking spot, all shiny and clean.

M:          I really appreciate it.  Sorry for all the trouble.

CW:       You’re not the trouble, Mary.

<ring ring>

J:            Hello?

M:          Car’s back and ready to go, John.

J:            Great! You just have to keep on top of these people to make sure they do their jobs!

Did they fill it up?

M:          <pause> Really?

There are so many things going on in these exchanges, I don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s not try.  Let’s just leave it with this:

f,,k,idiot,,,funny,humour,quotes-b2ac9a3b8dcf6b7805c23de106119132_h

I’m Your Biggest Fan…

Franz-Bischoff-Arroyo-Seco-Pasadena-Oil-Painting

(Franz Bischoff painting of the Arroyo Seco)

Early evening.  This is my favorite time of day.  It’s also my favorite time of year.

In California.

Early April, not too hot, the green starting to explode on the hills… Jasmine, that fragrant, heady harbinger of Spring.  The quick, look-fast-or-you-miss-them sunsets.

Those smells in the air, the light getting longer.  Better than the straight up hot spotlight that daytime and noontime give you – it burns me, more than just my skin.  It’s so bright, nothing is hidden – it wants in, and I don’t let it.  I haven’t let it.  California has not been my home for 15 years.

I’ve just lived here; it’s never felt like “home.”  Mostly because i didn’t want it to – I loved Canada, and as much as I loved Canada, I loved Boston a hundred times more – my heart broke leaving it, but now, fifteen years on, the heartbreak has lessened ever so slightly, and I am OK that I did.  I’ve grown up in California, in more ways than one.

I first visited when I was ten or eleven, some tween age.  My parents and I drove down from Canada to visit relatives here.  It was July, I do remember that – we were trying to get there for my birthday but didn’t quite make it.  We stopped off in Utah or Oregon somewhere; Mum and Dad bought a cake and surprised me with it at the hotel pool, where strangers and newly-formed friends sang to me.  We drove for hours and hours, and made it the next day, and then, when my Aunt scooted me out of the kitchen that night, my feelings were hurt, I didn’t know what was going on.  Then came the cake out of the darkness, half-eaten, the writing smooshed, “Hap Birthd Ber” only visible, with candles on it, and I felt special. Two nights of birthday cake and two nights of singing. Another relative made me feel like a princess – “I’ve got a special gift for you!” My eyes lit up and I smiled… “What? What is it?”  She pulled out a little velvet bag and said softly, “Make-up!” It was Clinique – a boatload of samples and “specials with purchase” that you get when you buy a certain amount.

I couldn’t breathe.  I spent the rest of the night, and the subsequent days we were there, highlighting, bronzing, glossing… I was in heaven.  Best tween girl present… ever.

My Aunt got me a powder blue lunchbox, with Vinnie Barbarino on it.  The rest of the Sweathogs were on the inside, plastered round the thermos, with their stock sayings next to them, grinning out at me.   But there Vinnie was, with his long, feathered dark hair, that goofy smile… and what did I say? “I HATE Barbarino!!”  Ugh.  Ten year old kids can be brutal.  I did go up to her afterwards and thank her and gave her a big hug.  She was smart – she knew that thing would be a collectible in a few years… too bad I don’t still have it, I might be a gazillionaire!!

The place where we stayed is less than a mile from where I live now.  Same town, one major street down the hill.  I pass by that house every day on the way home from work.  The big palm tree out front is gone, and the ivy’s been replaced with some grass and some terracing, but I still remember it.  Their house was so beautiful – it had a pool, and a cabana, a big patio, huge flowers, ivy everywhere.  When we went to Busch Gardens the day after arriving, I snipped a flower off the huge bush (were they peonies?) and my Aunt put it in my hair for me, in a beautiful big bun.  This place seemed unbelievable.  The sun was shining all the time.  There was so much to do, and everyone seemed happy and casual.  Shorts, tees, flip-flops.  My cousin had a yellow VW Beetle and she drove me around, telling me about the enormous tortoise at Knott’s Berry Farm (or the Zoo, one of the two), that was so huge, you could sit on him and he’d walk around.  I’m pretty sure my eyes popped out of my head.

Anyway… I’ve gone off on a tangent.  What i really meant to write about, was that for the first time since I’ve been here, I feel at home.  Is it because I’m a homeowner now?  Or the fantastic job?  The sense of not having to do everything the way other people do things here?  Yes, there are lots of fun things to do, and be, and see.  But, the one thing that California does promise, is that there is something for everyone.  Literally. I’m 25 miles from the ocean, maybe less, and I haven’t been to the beach in years.  And that’s OK.  I love the ocean, but not the Pacific.  I can’t smell it when I wake up, like I did the Atlantic in Boston. It’s different.  And that’s OK.

You all know I’m soft on Joni Mitchell.  Have been since I was a young teen.  “Blue” of course, was a seminal album of the 70s.  Like “Frampton Comes Alive” was standard issue to rockin’ teenagers in the suburbs all over, “Blue” was standard issue to the emo teens of my day (how cool IS it, really, that artists and their works are used as measuring sticks in the passing of time? A lot of other great stuff happened, but music and the arts help break it down for us, in ways we don’t even consciously comprehend.  That’s why I loved theatre so much, especially as a teenager.  I loved going to those amazing architectured halls and seeing that immediacy, that intimacy, feeling and seeing people having those forbidden things – emotions – and feeling them along with those on stage, and being able to take the lesson, without the horrible consquences.  What magic.  It’s still like that for me today too, but I’m so annoyed with the cell phones, the candy wrappers, the nose blowing…).

Joni talked about Paris, France.  Reading the news and it sure looks bad (it always looks bad in the news, don’t it?)

That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn’t want to stay here
It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California

Oh…but California… indeed.  Will you take me as I am?  Will you take me…as I am? Will you?

I hope so.  I’m taking you as you are… and you’re lovely.

California, coming home…

Daily Prompt: Menagerie

What can I say about our family? Anyone who tells you that having pets instead of kids is easier is lying through their pie-hole.  At least with kids they grow out of the whole vomiting-pooping-themselves-teething-on-the-furniture stage.  Having cats and dogs is like having toddlers who are just learning they are their own little person, that “NO!” is a great word, and not doing what their told can be enormous jolly good fun!

The first cat I ever got on my own was named Slippers.  I got her in Boston after a breakup, and she teased me with her paw through the cage at the SPCA. When I looked closer, she was polydactyl, and sweet as pie.  She came home with me and she nursed me back into society, and I nursed her through pneumonia.  She was a study in evolution, because those bad boy front paws were like opposable thumbs – I saw her pick kibble up in a pincer motion once, and it made me sleep with one eye open from then on, waiting for her to start using the phone and coordinating the cat uprising.  We moved to LA together and I survived (so did she) her falling off my balcony.  She was nowhere in the house and I was totally puzzled until the doorbell rang and a neighbor had her, looking a bit worse for wear.  She was my Picasso-painting-faced love bug.  She would dough-knead and wool-suck on a blanket all night if you’d let her.

She was joined a few years later by Henry, a very proper B&W Tuxedo.  This cat was a little man in a kitty suit. A real gentleman.  I kept searching for his suit zipper so that maybe Prince Charming would pop out – but he was neutered, so that wouldn’t have been much help anyway!  Henry liked to talk.  He was very insistent in trying to tell you something, and he would always look deep in your eyes imploring you to understand. I went in to Petco for food one day and walked out with him.  His owners were moving back to Lebanon and couldn’t bring him.  Henry smelled like Patchouli and Sandalwood when I got him and his fur was like velvet. Smart and spoiled rotten.  The sweetest, most loving cat I have ever known.

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Slippers and Henry did not get along so well – Slippers being grumpy and Henry being assertively friendly.  So what was my solution?  Get another kitten to bridge the gap.  My ex brought this little white ball of fluff home from a foster home, where her whiskers and eyebrows had been cut off.  I called her Cricket, because she made a sound in between the monster from “Predator” and peeping.  She did bridge the gap, and we had pretty much harmony at home.

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One day, I noticed Slippers was not eating.  Now, she is very much like her mommy and there is not a meal she has met that she didn’t like.  Upon further inspection, her ears, lips, and mouth were jaundiced.  She had gotten liver disease and died soon after that.  I was inconsolable.  Henry and Cricket missed her too.

I moved in with my then boyfriend (now my husband), and brought them with me.  They tentatively checked out the house, and soon found their favorite spots in the new digs.  Now, along comes a little Force of Nature named Bella.

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Bella is a Pug.  She was bought as a puppy from a pet store by my husband’s brother and his girlfriend. When they broke up, she went to Grandma, who lived next door to us. Bella got toast and jam, carrots, green beans, and pretty much anything else she wanted! My hubby would walk her and generally, fell in love with her.  He brought her over from Grandma’s a couple nights after I moved in, to meet the cats, and immediately, she knew the house was not just hers anymore.  So what did she do?  Chased the cats, barked, snuffled, turned away from us… and took a huge dump in the middle of the dining room.  As if to say, “MY HOUSE!”

We lived in family bliss for quite a while. Bella came to live with us full-time after Grandma passed. If you didn’t know, Pugs are notorious food hounds (I’m sure all dogs are, but Pugs are… something else). Bella got schooled one day from the REAL alpha in the house – Henry.  She had thought it fine to gobble up Henry’s kibble, and sat grinning and panting at the front door, very pleased with herself.  Henry walked up to her, sniffed her muzzle, raised a paw, then smacked her in the face, as if to say, “How DARE you eat our food!”  Bella knew her place then, for sure.

Henry made it to 18.  It was the most difficult thing I had ever, ever had to do.  I didn’t want to let him go, but he had to.  The house seemed duller and quieter.  Cricket was despondent and alone, and started throwing up a lot, and got very skinny.  Bella missed him too, as they had developed a camaraderie and mutual respect.

Well why not, let’s bring in to the mix, my husband’s first kitten.  We got her from the Humane Society and had her fixed.  Cricket did not take kindly to her, nor did Bella.  We kept her secluded in our bedroom after the spaying surgery, and she slept with us, out of it. She wolfed down wet food and purred and growled as she ate. She also peed on the duvet the first night, but that was our fault!  She was too little to get off the bed herself to get to the litterbox. Neither of us had really had a kitten before, so we were a bit like new parents I’m sure.

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So, here we are… Cricket, 13; Bella, 9; Sissy, 3.  It’s a non-stop barrage of treats, wet food, prescriptions, nail trims, anal gland extractions, vomit, hairballs, litter boxes, shredded toilet paper rolls, dog farts, snorting, snot flings, grooming, attacks on the feet under the blankets at 3:00 a.m., constant meowing, purring, barking and howling… and you know what?  I wouldn’t change a thing. At least none of them has ever given me attitude the way teenagers give it to their parents. We’ve had adventure, heartache, terror, joy, and tears with them, just like their human counterpart children.  They love me and my hubby absolutely, unequivocally, unconditionally, and we reciprocate it right back.

The Inside Job, or Bird With French Fry

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Indeed!  I think that happiness is a choice. Sure, there are circumstances that would challenge even the hardiest of souls, but that feeling of oneness with the universe, the rush of feeling good hormones, why wouldn’t you choose that on a daily basis if you could?

I’ve been getting these prompts from the Daily Prompt, on subjects to write about.  Truthfully, I haven’t felt much like writing these last few weeks.  There’s been a lot going on and I could not focus enough to really say what I wanted.  Unfortunately, I am not one to just put a few lines together and publish.  I like to have a good discussion on whatever topic is buzzing in my head.

So, why happiness as a topic?  There’s already been so much written about happiness, how to obtain it, how to nurture it, medicate to reach it… but it really is elusive.  It’s also an inside job.  Nothing you can buy, sell, eat, or do will create it (although a well-mad apple fritter… comes pretty darn close).  It’s about searching within to express it.  Things start falling into place when you are humble and grateful, and willing to learn.

I am a firm believer that we are not in control of anything in our lives, but our own reaction to it.  We can pray for something not to happen, or to happen, we can think about how we want our lives to be, and then try to manipulate it to happen that way, but really it is not up to us.  The greatest thing I have learned about the quest for happiness is that you have to be completely divested from the outcome.

I applied for a job where I am now, because someone else thought I would be really good at it.  I’m happy where I am now and wasn’t really looking to make a change.  But I did it because I respect the person who told me I’d be good for it.  What did I have to lose?  I made a decision with my Higher Power that whatever the outcome, I’d go along with it as the correct one.  Since I didn’t have any interest in the outcome, I was free to just be myself and answer the interview questions honestly and let my personality and experience come through, instead of worrying about the answers and second-guessing myself into wondering what the correct answer was that would get me the job.

Well, I got the job.

I was as surprised as anyone that in 2½ years here, I’ve been promoted, and extremely well-compensated.  The last company I was with, I was there for 10 years, and hadn’t had a raise or a bump in position in 6 years.  Not even a cost of living bump. And yet I was afraid to let go of the “tenure” I had there, and the perks of working there.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Something happens when you’re not afraid to be happy.  You’re happy. And while some think that focusing on what you have and being grateful for it will do nothing but keep you at that level, I believe that being grateful every single day for what you have in your life keeps you open for more good things to happen.

Now, I am not saying that “bad” things will never happen, only that with a change in attitude and gratitude, they don’t seem as awful as they once did, and you can move forward from them a lot sooner than if you let it get to you. Last night, I nearly (probably) died.  I’m certain that would have been the outcome. I was at a t-intersection, made my stop, and was continuing on to make a left turn, when a truck ran the stop sign, at about 50 mph. I literally almost blacked out from the anticipation of the crash, but somehow, managed to slam on the brakes and honk.  The other driver didn’t even try to look like, “Oops! Sorry about that!” or anything showing that it was unintentional.  He just didn’t give a shit. Meanwhile, I’ve got tears streaming down my face, my hands are shaking, and the driver of another car came up to me and asked if I was OK.  I was. Shaken, but OK. Years ago, I would have ruminated on this whole experience for weeks!  Brought it up, chewed on the cud for a while, swallowed it, and then brought it up again just to make sure I’d gotten all I could out of the experience, and repeated. Last night, instead, I went home, hugged my husband, kissed my Pug, related what happened, thanked my guardian angels, and went about preparing dinner. Then I got into gratitude for my wonderful home, my loving friends, the great weather, etc… I just didn’t let it go any further. I did not let it occupy any more of my time because there just isn’t that kind of time.  I would rather spend it on those aforementioned things that are important.

So for today, just make a choice.  Be happy.  Even if the laundry’s not done, your boss is a jerk, you don’t have time for lunch, the dog just peed on the floor…whatever.  Choose to not be angry, and reactive.  Choose instead to laugh (inside or out) at the circumstance and move on.  Don’t give it a moment’s more thought.  Choose to spend your energy on things you have control over. Your reaction. Your helpfulness. Your smile.

I’m telling you, sometimes it IS just that easy.  And if not, well…

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Kind of.  For now, anyway.

I want you to laugh.

I get it.

rarasaur

pie in your face 2I want to tell you about all the awfulness in my life, some that has passed, some that I am still working through.

I want to tell you about funerals, doomsday doctors, people that can’t be trusted, and the accusations that tore my soul.  I want to warn you about what it’s like to be falsely criminalized and how several decades of honorable living doesn’t sway anyone, least of all a courtroom.  I want to tell you about a fear so real that it claws your soul and keeps you awake at night.  I want to explain why a girl surrounded by loved ones, educated, and powerful in her own right would consider divorce, suicide, and prostitution.  I want to share stories of bug-infested hotels, and untreated flus, and other people’s leftover food.  I want to teach you how I learned to lie in order to protect people– Good people–…

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